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Gartcosh Steel Mill

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:05 pm on 23rd January 1986.

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Photo of Mr Kenneth Warren Mr Kenneth Warren , Hastings and Rye 6:05 pm, 23rd January 1986

I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not give way. I want to be as brief as possible and I am afraid that I am already taking a lot of time. Other hon. Members want to speak.

I hope that the Government will answer these questions. There is no doubt that output at Gartcosh is of high quality. One would not transport Gartcosh steel 340 miles to the gates of Port Talbot just to sell it to British Steel's plant if that were not the case. There is no question about the quality there. Llanwern and Port Talbot have their own cold mill. As I said, I have always regarded Gartcosh as part of the Ravenscraig complex. I am told by those who work at Gartcosh, although I would not expect them to say otherwise, that Shotton cannot match the quality of Gartcosh, so why transport the steel down there? The danger is that if the quality is not there, whatever Austin Rover says, it can go away tomorrow and will not come back. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) about a mill going away and no people being there to resurrect it is perfectly true. Once lost, skilled workers never return.

Over the past year the workers at Ravenscraig and Gartcosh have achieved 14 records unequalled in any other part of the United Kingdom and I praise them for that. The argument that we can do away with Gartcosh and load Shotton and the other mills implies a loading of those mills to 94 per cent. of their installed capacity. It is not possible to operate such mills at that level of capacity without them breaking down and the customers going away. One will never be first source. One might climb aboard a second or even third source. Loading to such a capacity simply is not realistic. There is no doubt about it. If one looks at the other European companies which are in direct competition with the BSC, the best they can usually achieve is 80 to 85 per cent. I am told that the Japanese who went to Ravenscraig and Gartcosh and looked around, no doubt with their canny eyes slanted on opportunity first and advice second, let on to the workers at Ravenscraig that if one loads over about 85 per cent., it costs an extra £1 million in maintenance costs for every 1 per cent. over 85. Bang goes all the savings. There has to be more logic.

If I am right in my information about the returns that British Steel is expected to provide, which I do not dispute as being fair and reasonable, there is no way that many parts of the BSC, including Gartcosh and Ravenscraig, can ever achieve those objectives. We must have a second look.